Republican-on-Democrat malice hardly merits a headline after "You lie" was shouted at the president during a joint address to Congress.
Democrat-on-Democrat malice is still newsworthy and any Democrat ready to unload on President Barack Obama is an instant hero in some quarters, as former New York Representative Eric Massa found out this week.
The Republicans' embrace of Massa is a prime example of Obama Derangement Syndrome, which expresses itself in hating anything that the president likes, even if you once loved it, like a bipartisan commission on the deficit or Medicare cuts. Obama could make Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell vice president and not one Republican vote would change.
But Massa became something more as the backbencher used gullible Republicans to go out in a blaze of infamy. Republicans wanted a Democrat to go rogue, and he went rogue big time. Forgotten was Massa's resignation because of a sexual-harassment case before the House ethics committee and lymphoma, which he may or may not have. It was Massa as the conscientious public servant who was "smeared" and "kicked out of Congress" for daring to "buck this all powerful White House" because he was going to vote "no" on Obama's health-care package.
Leave aside that he wasn't kicked anywhere but quit and that many potential "no" votes are blithely eating bean soup in the House dining room today with no worries about being smeared. Massa's tale was irresistible -- a turncoat willing to single out the son of the "devil's spawn" otherwise known as Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who already was the center of stories about White House palace intrigue.
Naked Man Talk
Emanuel's evil ways became apparent to Massa in the shower in the House gym, as gripping a scene inside the Beltway as the classic at the Bates Motel in the movie "Psycho":
"I'm sitting there showering, naked as a jaybird," Massa told a local radio station over the weekend, "and here comes Rahm Emanuel, not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest....Do you know how awkward it is to have a political argument with a naked man?"
Don't know how awkward or that men sat to shower. Was it more or less awkward than the incident that got the ethics ball rolling in the first place? Massa, who is unusually friendly with the male staffers he rooms with, was accused by one of tousling his hair at a wedding reception, claiming how he'd rather be "fracking" him (a term not widely used except among Battlestar Galatica fans) than one of the bridesmaids. Fracking means what you think it means.
Thanks for the Memories
The Son of Satan said he has no memory of berating Massa in the nude and Massa has no witnesses. But Republicans were so entranced by the thought of a White House adding the Massa Massacre to ugly deals like the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase in its demented quest to pass health care, they went for it.
The Republican National Committee immediately sent out a release critical of Speaker Nancy Pelosi for treating the serious charges as a "rumor." That left some Republicans hoping the incident might yield revenge against her for the resignation of Speaker Dennis Hastert, who quit in 2007 over his handling of complaints that former Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley had harassed male teenage House pages.
And the right-minded bullhorns, if not the leaders, of the party came out in full force. Rush Limbaugh, vowed to make a "national story" out of Massa's claims that Democrats orchestrated his downfall. The Drudge Report ran a banner headline all day: "Rahm 'would sell his own mother for a vote.'" Glenn Beck said he would devote his whole show to Massa on Tuesday.
Taking a Flyer
That's when the new romance died. Massa was so incoherent on Beck he could have been a double agent planted by Democrats to show just how big a flyer Republicans will take to make Obama look bad. Massa preferred to talk about tickle fights (by his account, a staple of Navy life), wrestling with young guys and other gropings which may or may not have happened.
He left Beck unsatisfied in his quest to have a Democrat agree with him that Obama is taking the country to hell in a handbasket. Massa was televised proof that he, not Obama or Satan's progeny or anyone else, took his seat away from him. Not since South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's non-trip down the Appalachian Trail has a public official embarrassed himself more.
The Massa affair might be a teachable moment for Democrats tempted to pick off one of the Republicans hammering Liz Cheney, the ambitious spawn of former Vice President Dick Cheney and co- chairman of a group called Keep America Safe. In her crusade to portray Obama as endangering America, she put together an ad impugning the values and patriotism of the "the al-Qaeda 7," lawyers working at the "Department of Jihad" (Justice) who had once represented terrorism suspects in court.
Numerous former high-ranking officials of the Bush-Cheney administration, legal scholars who have supported draconian detention policies, and Bill Clinton special prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr, among others, pounced on the latest in a "shameful series of attacks" by Cheney. "The American tradition of zealous representation of unpopular clients is at least as old as John Adams' representation of the British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre," Starr and other lawyers wrote in an open letter.
How heartening for Democrats to find Republican soulmates who love the Constitution more than debasing Obama at any cost. But unlike Republicans with Massa, they should resist the impulse to expand their mattress to include bedfellows like Starr. They'll find out, as Beck did, that it's fracking dangerous to sleep with the enemy.
This post originally appeared on Bloomberg.com.
Margaret Carlson, author of "Anyone Can Grow Up: How George Bush and I Made It to the White House" and former White House correspondent for Time magazine, is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.